Military Embedded Systems

New space-designed, waveform processor from Northrop Grumman tested for warfighter communications


April 16, 2015

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. Northrop Grumman engineers demonstrated a new space-design protected tactical waveform (PTW) processor that they say improves user data rates by as much as a factor of 20, enhances spectral efficiency by as much as a factor of four and enables bandwidth-on-demand to enhance warfighter communications in contested tactical environments.

The testing was performed as part of the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's MILSATCOM Design for Affordability Risk Reduction effort with MIT/Lincoln Labs. The processor communicated via the Air Force-developed protected tactical waveform, which leverages the protection features of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) program's extended data rate waveform called XDR.

Company officials say the demonstration platform has flight-representative technology readiness level six (TRL-6) hardware, firmware, and software that may be integrated into a near-term flight program.

"The real value of PTW is when it is integrated into an architecture with comprehensive protection including space-based processing, non-commercial frequency bands, crosslinks, and other key protection features in the antenna and radio frequency processing chains," says Tim Frei, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president, communication systems. The contract was treated as a risk reduction and prototype development consistent with Northrop Grumman's standard development process for flight units, rather than just a concept demonstration, which helps reduce the future cost of a flight unit.

The Northrop Grumman PTW platform has multi-channel demodulators, Ethernet-based packet switching, high-data-rate modulators, and the associated control software. After completing the full suite of government-defined modem tests, Northrop Grumman engineers completed additional testing such as the connection of multiple terminal emulators in an end-to-end configuration with complete forward and return processing and Ethernet switching. The team also showed how the bandwidth-on-demand software responds to a multi-user loading environment to efficiently use the available spectrum.


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